The news late last year that Sony had bought out Ericsson and was planning to launch own-branded smartphones came as no surprise.
Despite a strong 2011 line-up, Sony Ericsson had been churning out some seriously suspect devices for years, with its parent company evidently unimpressed by most of the output.
The Xperia Play, and the failure to push it properly as the much-hyped PSP phone is a case in point. That Sony would make better, sleeker smartphones under its own name was always a given.
But it’s particularly good news that it’s done so with its first device since the divorce, the Sony Xperia S, part of the new Xperia NXT range.
Revealed at CES in Las Vegas this new super phone not only rocks much more distinctive, Sony design, it also comes with the added bonus of beating rivals Samsung and HTC to the punch.
Their flagship devices won’t be revealed until Mobile World Congress next month. The sharp design is a marked departure from the days of Sony Ericsson’s rather plasticky, round-edged frames.
Meanwhile, the decision to use vanilla Android rather than the woeful Timescape/Mediascape functions which plagued early Xperia Android models is welcome.
The only letdown, it seems, is the decision not to include Android Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) from the start.
Gingerbread will be on board when the phone launches in March. This is a disappointing oversight, especially as forthcoming rivals are likely to have ICS from launch. Where this phone should give the edge over rivals, though, is Sony’s ace content offerings.
The Music Unlimited streaming service has got more than 12 million tracks available, while Video Unlimited’s movie package can seriously rival iTunes.
Throw in PlayStation Certified gaming and the Xperia S is looking like the kind of Android phone that can at last properly challenge the iPhone in the content stakes.
Sony appears to be one of the few smartphone makers to realise the power of having an ecosystem to hook users. Hopefully, this should serve it well when it comes to launch.
But hooking in users could prove tricky. While Sony remains one of the strongest technology brands on the planet, its mobile cachet is low and the Xperia S will not be cheap.
With the Galaxy S3 expected to sell in the millions and HTC desperate to claw itself back to the top table after a dismal end to 2011, Sony is going to have a huge fight on its hands if it’s going to sell in excess of a million units.
This flagship device looks gorgeous and could be a winner. But until we see how its Xperia NXT stablemates sell, judgment will have to be reserved.